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Dave Foxall 4 Critical Selection Factors for On-boarding Software

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 By Dave Foxall

Finding the Right On-boarding System

A 2011 survey into on-boarding practices by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 50+% of organizations identified time constraints and insufficient HR staffing as the main barriers to offering formal, structured on-boarding activities; and almost 40% wait until a new hire's start date before commencing any sort of introduction. These statistics are lamentable on numerous fronts, especially given the fact that on-boarding software can provide an avenue to remedy the issues that cause these barriers. Specifically, on-boarding automation can offer streamlined processes as well as the capabilities to reach out to new hires from the point of acceptance (sidestepping several ever-present resource issues)—thereby easing the burden on managers and HR personnel. While these benefits of on-boarding software are easily understood though, this HR technology has yet to achieve majority adoption by organizations. In fact, the 2011-12 Towers Watson HR Service Delivery and Technology research report found that barely 25% of companies are currently implementing or exploring new technology vendors for on-boarding.

One potential reason behind this lack of adoption is that on-boarding software involves processes and software features that aren't as easily defined as other HR areas. For example, organizational culture plays a critical role in on-boarding, but can be rather nebulous and difficult to define and measure. Likewise, proactively engaging an employee prior to their start date can seem like a potential misallocation of precious resources. In turn, these points can lead to confusion about how to not only approach the on-boarding process itself, but also how to conduct the selection of on-boarding software. Thankfully, this process can be simplified by merely supplementing standard HR software selection considerations (e.g. clarity on business requirements and goals, technical and function specifications, vendor stability, service/maintenance agreements, cost, etc.) with some additional on-boarding specific factors.

On-boarding Software Selection Factor #1: Transactional Features

Effective on-boarding software should consist of both transactional and acculturation processes. Transactional processes can be defined as aligning new employees with the priorities and goals of the organization and the key objective, as defined by Emerald Software is, "to achieve value by optimizing, perfecting, and controlling specific work tasks in the process of on-boarding an employee. Tasks meeting these objectives fall into three categories: automating paperwork and forms, automating the flow of data, and ensuring compliance." On-boarding software should also automate new hire paperwork and collect data electronically. The capability to electronically sign forms is an important feature of a forms management module, and should include digital forms for: employee demographics; IRS W‐4; INS I‐9; IRS 8850 (Work Opportunity Tax Credit); state W‐4's or equivalent; policy acknowledgements and acceptance certifications; benefits, including group health and voluntary benefits; and any necessary special industry forms (e.g. Department of Transportation, Homeland Security, Defense and National Security, etc.). Additionally, as a part of the forms management feature set, the on-boarding software should further be able to manage the flow of data into other corporate systems such as HRMS, payroll, time and attendance, learning and talent management, workforce analytics and benefits management software.

On-boarding Software Selection Factor #2: Acculturation Features

Aside from transaction-based processes, effective on-boarding software should also include functionalities for acculturation—a widely acknowledged critical aspect of new hire retention. In fact, in a recent SilkRoad survey, The State of Talent Management: Developing the Agile Workforce-Driving Business Value, respondents were asked to list their top three goals for on-boarding and nearly 70% answered: "Ensure that employees are engaged with and socialized into the company culture." This objective of socialization is covered by a number of acculturation processes that vary from workplace to workplace, but the right on-boarding technology solution should be flexible enough to incorporate the customer's desired range of activities, including: multimedia welcome messaging; some presentation of company history and culture; colleague and co-worker information; and any other applicable early engagement initiatives. Pre-start date automated access via an on-boarding web portal can further reduce traditional first day information overload and create the space for a more relaxed introduction to the organization.

On-boarding Software Selection Factor #3: Compliance

A subset of transaction-based processes, on-boarding software should also dedicate considerable focus to any and all applicable regulatory compliance factors. Indeed, a key part of an on-boarding application should ensure that new hire data is accurate, routed accurately, and, as Emerald Software recommends: be able to address a host of regulation-based activities. In fact, prospective on-boarding solution buyers should consider asking the following selection questions pertaining to compliance:

  • Does the onboarding system provide a complete library of up-to-date federal and state required forms?
  • Does the system present these forms in an electronic data collection format that enforces the government's instructions regarding how the form must be filled out?
  • Does the system permit an unlimited number of forms to cover all an employer's policy acknowledgement and data collection needs?
  • Does the onboarding system prevent new hires from submitting electronic forms that are incomplete or incorrectly filled out?
  • Does the onboarding system comply with all the requirements of the 2000 e-Sign Act so that the legality of electronically collected signatures cannot be called into question later?
  • Can the onboarding system be interfaced with e-Verify to enhance compliance with ICE best practices for worker eligibility verification?

On-boarding Software Selection Factor #4: Opportunities for Non-Traditional Access

On top of the previously mentioned software selection factors, Tracey McCarthy of SilkRoad emphasizes that pre-start opportunities should be made available to new hires via social media as well as mobile access to the new employer's on-boarding portal. As McCarthy highlights, "If you've made the right hire you're likely excitedly awaiting their first day, and they, in turn, are looking forward to becoming an integrated member of the team. That process can be kick-started in advance". Indeed, communicating through any one of the numerous social sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter can foster personal connections; a benefit that allows relationships to be formed, and as McCarthy puts it, "[creates a] workplace environment sticky for its inhabitants, improving retention and engagement". On-boarding software vendors that particularly excel in this new media arena include: Enwisen, Peoplefluent, and, as evidenced by the above quote…SilkRoad Technology.

On-boarding Software Selection – The Bottom Line

Each new hire's on-boarding process should be unique—tailored to the organization's size, sector and strategy while taking into account the role and specific needs of the new position. By leveraging on-boarding software, these elements can be easily achieved while also allowing for process efficiencies to be gained—a uniquely positive value proposition for HR and the organization alike. Indeed, as Towers Watson reports, "Nearly three-quarters (73%) of HR executives who use on-boarding technology rated it as effective or very effective." By focusing on the organization's individual transactional needs and acculturation activities and fully leveraging early access opportunities, the selection exercise can result in the ideal process/software match. End

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On top of other selection factors, Tracey McCarthy of SilkRoad emphasizes that pre-start opportunities should be made available to new hires via social media as well as mobile access to the new employer's on-boarding portal.


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